These Chores Don’t Count? On Men’s Hidden “Second Shift”

Housework—as it is defined by those who keep the statistics—does not include many chores traditionally handled by men.

The stereotype: “Housework is the only activity at which men are allowed to be consistently inept because they are thought to be so competent at everything else” —Letty Cottin Pogrebin

The reality: “The fellow who owns his own home is always coming out of a hardware store” —Kin Hubbard

Jobs using these do not get counted in major studies of housework (photo used under Creative Commons agreement)

 

For decades, The Bureau of Labor Statistics has conducted the Americans Time Use Survey (ATUS) and the University of Michigan has conducted the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). Through surveys and time use diaries, these studies track employment patterns, as well as how Americans divide their time among their daily work and non-work tasks.

No surprise—these projects have consistently found that men spend more time at work than women, and women spend more time on housework than men. These gaps, which were once huge, have significantly narrowed over the decades, until stabilizing in about the late 1990s.

Two specific findings illustrate where we are today. First, the 2011 ATUS found that full-time employed men average 3.5 more working hours a week than full-time employed women. Second, the 2005 PSID found that, among dual-earner couples, women spend about 4.5 more hours per week on household chores than men. This household work gap is often referred to as women’s “Second Shift” (i.e., both men and women work their first shifts at work, but women also work a second shift of housework), based on the title of Dr. Arlie Hochschield’s excellent study on this issue.

So far, there’s nothing controversial here, and I bet these numbers ring true for many of us, even those who do a significant amount of household chores. The fact is women do somewhat more around the house than we do.

But look at those numbers again. Taking both paid work and household work together, that’s only a one hour difference per week [edited]. Despite the media’s constant harping on “chore wars” (see this article or this blog post for typical superficial “journalism” on this subject), this doesn’t seem to me like the demise of feminism and equal opportunity that it is often made out to be.

And, in my opinion, the one hour difference per day doesn’t even tell the whole story.

As far as I could tell (and I pored over the ATUS survey instrument and data files- all for you, dear reader, all for you), ATUS only includes meal preparation, cleaning, laundry, child care, grocery shopping, and bill paying in its categorization of “household chores”.

Further, according to the PSID’s own report:

Housework was defined as “core chores,” or routine housework that people generally do not enjoy doing such as washing dishes, laundry, vacuuming floors and dusting … Routine housework, like cooking dinner or making beds, was captured … . Other activities such as home repairs, mowing the lawn, and shoveling snow were not in the study. Items such as gardening are usually viewed as more enjoyable; the focus here is on core housework.

All I can say to that is Wha-wha-whaaaaaat!!!??? Shoveling snow is enjoyable and thus should not count as a chore? Mowing the lawn in August is enjoyable? Fixing a clogged toilet is enjoyable? Grouting? Painting a room? Hauling air conditioners up the stairs? Doing the taxes? Changing the car’s oil? Crawling through the musty crawl space to repair a leaky pipe?

You get my drift.

While I admit some “men’s chores” are pretty enjoyable (after all, there is satisfaction in repairing something in the house yourself instead of calling a repairman), I think making such a large distinction between “unenjoyable routine housework” and “enjoyable chores” is, well, just plain wrong. Some people get loads of satisfaction from cooking or from maintaining a clean house, too. But enjoyability is not the main issue.

The big problem is that “definitive” studies like ATUS and PSID emphasize tasks that are typically performed more by women as “household chores”, while either minimizing or excluding more typical men’s chores. I get that “our” chores are not quite as routine or everyday and therefore harder to measure, but most of us working dads are also on-call handymen (I love my wife and she is an awesome partner who does more than her fair share, but she’s not the one bailing water out of the basement after a flood).

And, more importantly, the flaws in the data exaggerate the housework gap, failing to recognize our contributions. As a result, the men’s “second shift” gets short shrift.

You know what they say about research and data—“Garbage in, garbage out” (o yeah, they don’t count that chore either…)

How do you feel about the division of labor and household chores? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

 

This was previously published on Fathers, Work, and Family.

Read more on Work/Life Balance on The Good Life.

Image credit: dbking/Flickr

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About Scott Behson

Scott Behson is a Professor of Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a busy involved dad, and an overall grateful guy. He runs the www.FathersWorkandFamily.com blog dedicated to helping fathers better balance work and family and encouraging more supportive workplaces, and also writes for Harvard Business Review, The Huffington Post, and, most recently, Time. He lives in Nyack, NY with his wife, Amy, and son, Nick. Contact him @ScottBehson on twitter.

Comments

  1. John schtoll says:

    There is also the possibility that some studies only capture ‘chores’ that are done on a regular basis, some studies ask, “How many times have you done X this week”. This also excludes chores that men do that require a fair amount of hours but perhaps only are done once a month and they might not be captured at all.

    Also, in your number above, you said

    “First, the 2011 ATUS found that full-time employed men average 3.5 more working hours a week than full-time employed women. Second, the 2005 PSID found that, among dual-earner couples, women spend about 4.5 more hours per week on household chores than men”

    This would indicate 1 more hour per WEEK on total hours, NOT the 1 hour a day you indicate later, OR did I miss something.

    • Hi John-

      I think you are right. Because some things are easier to measure than others doesn’t mean they are more important.

      Also, thanks for the great catch. We are editing that sentence now.

    • This is exactly what I was thinking as I read, too, because I’ve seen it in my own marriage. My husband and I used to fight often about the fact that he expected me to do the dishes and laundry every day, while his main chores were mowing the lawn and taking out the trash once a week. Not to mention that lawn-mowing is seasonal while none of “my” chores can be dropped for 5-6 months of the year. (We don’t typically get enough snow to merit shoveling.) Then every once in a while he’d scrub the whole kitchen or vacuum/mop the entire main floor, which I definitely appreciated — and verbalized that appreciation — but then expected to be off the hook chore-wise for another few weeks.

      Of course, managing the housework/”work”work balance with us has always been challenging because our work situation is quite variable due to his contracting. Just in the past few years we’ve had both of us working, one of us working, one working days and the other working nights, one working in town and the other traveling, one working 12-hour shifts, etc. So it never really comes out even – or as soon as it does, it’s time for a new contract and we have to come up with another plan.

      • Your comments raise another issue that needs to be a clearer part of this conversation. The housework that women do often tends to be more quotidian, associated with the day-to-day running of a clean and tidy house. The housework that men do can often be more occasional but more strenuous, physically demanding, and its results much more visible. This sort of housework makes a clear impression and will typically receive recognition and thanks. The housework that women do in such arrangements is far less likely to be noticed, because it blends into the background – maintaining the order and cleanliness of the status quo, rather than radically changing anything. The key effect of this is that it is less likely to be observed and appreciated and much more likely to be taken for granted or demanded. This inequality may be the most damaging of all.

        There is something peculiarly demoralizing about a ‘thankless’ task, but when others truly appreciate and are grateful for what we do for them, we feel valued and deem the work worthwhile. As the success of any effective relationship depends much upon attentiveness and the giving and receiving of gratitude, this imbalance in the recognition by the other partner and other parties more generally of the work done is a much greater dimension of the problem than commonly assumed, I suspect. It changes so much when other people notice and appreciate what you do and never take it for granted. In this area, the onus is especially upon men to notice and express gratitude for the countless things that their wives or partners do for them day by day.

        • That’s a very interesting and important point you raise. Of course, mutual support and appreciaion is key to a quality marraige- and is more important than set 50-50 spits of house duties.

        • Marc Iverson says:

          Right on the money. Taking each other for granted is a serious mistake. It’s also an ongoing temptation which can be fallen into not with malice or a voluntary neglect, but simply by default, as it is easy to get used to what people do for us and not notice.

          When we let the good things others do for us become mere background noise, we go out of sync with our lives lives and relationships. Not appreciating the small and never-ending good things others do for us is a step away from living with full awareness and a step toward alienation both from the self and from others. It is a diminishing of consciousness.

          In the worst case scenarios, even should another do more and more for us, we take whatever they do as some sort of baseline and bare minimum we deserve from them. Then nothing they do will be appreciated and there will often even arise the question of whether they shouldn’t extend themselves just a bit for a change, and for once do a little bit more. People can get so out of sync with what they give to and do for each other that it can lead to misery and resentment that destroys trust, appreciation of each other, and pleasure in each other’s company.

  2. Much appreciation on bringing this up. I’ve gotten into discussions with plenty of women who actively dismiss things like yard work, maintenance on vehicles, and working on the home. Usually the argument is that such things are “enjoyable to men” or that they don’t do them very often or some other bull.

    If that’s the case then how about an experiement where guys just stop doing that stuff. I mean since they just for fun they aren’t that necessary right? They aren’t vital tasks like laundry and cooking and cleaning inside the home? Let’s see how long the car lasts without hubby doing maintenance on it. How tall will the grass grow before it either becomes a neighborhood eyesore (and in some neighborhoods could be an actual ordinance violation) or becomes a home for wandering creatures (good luck seeing the snakes hiding in 3ft tall grass).


    The big problem is that “definitive” studies like ATUS and PSID emphasize tasks that are typically performed more by women as “household chores”, while either minimizing or excluding more typical men’s chores.

    In other words those studies are starting off with a deck that is stacked to make it look like women do more housework from the get go?

    I wonder if all those folks that go on about all that upaid labor that women do would be willing to extend the same courtesy the upaid work that men do as well?

    It’s weird really.

    When talking about labor there is certainly a history of women’s contributions being undercounted. But does it really stand to reason that the solution to making sure labor done by women is counted is to make sure the labor that men do is discounted in return? I’d like to think that if we really want to see how the labor division is going we have to see all the labor coming from both sides rather than starting from the conclusion that one side does more and then shaping the studies and research to fit that conclusion.

    • Danny- I like your way of thinking.

      I think there are 3 things going on:
      1. It is easier to count and mesure time spent on regular chores, like cooking and laundry
      2. There is a biased agenda by some researchers to highlight the plight of women (I am an academic researcher in my day job, and am acutely aware of how assumptions can intentionally or unintentionally skew social science studies)
      3. Most “journalists” who pick up on these studies do so completely uncritically, magnifying the misconceptions in our culture

      Finally, I think we are getting through the phase in which work-family is only a women’s issue and is being recognized as an issue for all (I see this in my academic and professional work, as well as the response to GMP and my own blog, which i hope you will continue to follow)

    • wellokaythen says:

      Yardwork is enjoyable to men? Sure, for some. Some people are masochists. As a teenager I didn’t mow the lawn in Texas in the summer because I really liked it. It’s called “chores” for a reason!

  3. Clearly they are minimizing men’s efforts in order to show “women work more”, biased studies….Did they find men actually did more housework and outside work when you add up outside jobs or something?

    Another major oversight is you CANNOT COMPARE different job types. A person mowing the lawn where I live in summer for an hour will burn more energy and end up having heat stress vs someone inside doing the cleaning, especially with aircon. How many people are SOAKING with sweat from dusting, vacuuming etc inside? Try swing an axe in 30+ degree heat with high humidity and the aussie sun blaring down on your skin. I can do quite a lot more work inside my house than I can outside in the yard simply because the heat drains you so quick and the yard work requires more physical effort for some of the tasks.

    Would you say a man working underground in a coal mine in high heat lifting heavy shit for 50 hours a week does less work than an office worker wife doing 40hours at the office and 20 hours of basic housework both in air conditioning without major physical exertion? What about those who do high intensity jobs for a shorter period of time where they are mentally drained far more than their partner who works longer hours? Do we judge a person’s value to a relationship by the amount of calories they exert, time spent, with a way to take into account job comfort (heat, etc)? Does the person who works less but brings in far more money mean they are putting more into the family than their partner?

    Trying to compare different jobs, different styles of working, different roles in a household is at best a guide but quite silly. I have to do 2 hours of yardwork tomorrow mowing, whipper snipping, poisoning weeds, etc, in temperatures around the 35 celcius mark (hopefully it won’t rain), I am most likely going to walk back in the house exhausted and have lost 2 litres or more of sweat, with a shirt that is soaking wet. I’d much rather do the vacuuming, etc, even if it takes longer because I don’t end up soaking wet and drained of energy.

    • wellokaythen says:

      There’s an argument to be made that many of those chores are ultimately optional, because they are based on choices that people made to have a lawn, have a garden, have a certain appearance to their house, etc. I don’t buy that completely, and I’m not saying that’s the case with your yard, but I would make some distinction between chores that people do in order to support something they don’t have to have and chores that are virtually unavoidable.

      Speaking for myself, if I bought a house with a huge yard so I could have a giant yard with short grass on it, then I’ve put that mowing labor on myself. I put myself in that position.

      Feeding your children, making sure the power is on, pulling weeds because you depend on your land for food, protecting your family from one of the many extremely poisonous yet legally protected snakes found in Australia (!), that’s all pretty necessary. (Seriously, I’ve heard that everything is poisonous in Australia. Even the platypus is poisonous!) Making the yard look a certain way, vacuuming the rug every other day, or adding a prettier light fixture over the kitchen table, these are not completely necessary.

      Then again, I’d say the same thing about parenting chores. People have children because they choose to have children. A lot of people get angry when I say that, but it’s true. The chores you have as a parent are chores that resulted from a decision to be a parent (or a decision to do things that risk pregnancy). That doesn’t mean I have any less sympathy or respect, just that these are not chores that are totally imposed on you by society. If you have a kid, you have to accept the chores that go with it.

      Mowing at 35 degrees? Who mows the yard when it’s almost freezing? : – ) [Doesn’t everyone in the world use Fahrenheit, just like Americans?]

      • Richard Aubrey says:

        well.
        Note this is about couples, not an individual buying a big home with a big yard. Thus, both were involved in choosing the home, and that means the yard. So we can presume the wife likes/liked at purchase time, the big yard. Thus the guy is mowing, in a manner of speaking, for both of them.

        • Who’s saying the man is the only one doing the mowing? In my experience, women do yard work too, especially when the couple chooses a home that demands a lot of it.

          • That’s always been true in my family. We both hate yardwork so we hire it out when we can, but I’ve done loads of it. As well as taking the car in, and bills.

            Here is the thing. Running a successful (by modern middle to upper middleclass aspiration/expectations) household (house clean and lovely, food stocked and well cooked, children clean and cared for, clothes washed and ironed, yard neat and inviting, art, piano, dusted etc) could easily be a full time job.

            And it used to be and the woman of the middle and upper middle class was the manager of the household, but may well have had staff to help attend to things. Back 100-150 years ago they most certainly had staff to make things pretty, and in non wealthy households women worked their asses off in and out of the house as did men.

            Now everyone works, mostly out of necessity, and so the hours available to make the house “middle class presentable” have shrunk dramatically.

            The choice is either work that second shift to keep up with the Joneses, and be mentally and emotionally exhausted by a 50 hour work week and a 20 hour housework week (and if there are kids, 10 more hours of homework etc), all just to try and keep up and this is both the men and women in the house doing all this, though I agree with Sarah that there is an expectation of women=homemakers OR you can decide to let some of the housework just fucking go, let it be messy, let the yard be…eh, and find ways to relax and enjoy your life, kids, friends, and family. And maybe even be rested enough to want sex, which is often collateral in the war of priorities.

            I know a lot of people go retro and say, when women didn’t work we didn’t have these problems…sure I can see that, though I get there were other problems like women being exceedingly bored (and my mom said loads of women worked in her day), why not go radical and say fuck the system that demands it’s cogs work 50-60 hours a week with no real opportunity for rest, creative reflection, or truly supportive benefits like month long sabbaticals. America has one of the lowest “happiness” quotients in the world (ironic since the pursuit of happiness is in our makeup) and the longest work weeks, shortest vacation benefits and so forth.

            In addition we have mediated messages about how perfect our lives should look with clean sparkling homes, exotic but healthy meals, trim fit physiques, and money spent on toys and tech coming at us all the time. We are going crazy and I blame a system that puts money at the center of it’s heart.

            Let your house be a mess if it means playing board games with your kids. Or going running. Or laying in the yard looking at the clouds. Or having sex.

            Don’t buy into second and third shifts, or if you do, allow those to be about creation and projects that make you happy, not keep you running in circles.

            • Fantastic comment!

              My wife and I have an expression- life is too short to have a perfect-looking home, yard, etc.

              Also, in a prior article of mine, someone suggested a “His list” “Her list” and “Hire someone list” to organize chores. Cleaning services like Merry Maids are relatively cheap- especially if you only hire them 1 or 2 times a week.

            • @Julie …I totally agree. I’m always uncomfortable going to someone’s home that’s picture perfect. Our home is / was people friendly. There was nothing that if it were broken that would cause any distress. It’s one thing to have grime, it’s another to simply be messy.

            • Marc Iverson says:

              I find that much more inviting. A place in which you always feel you’re about to be shooed away from something and are afraid to touch anything or sit anywhere is something I’d rather see in a photograph than have to try to be comfortable, friendly, and relaxed in. If I’m wondering if I’ll be judged for using your footstool, I’d rather just be somewhere else.

              As long as it doesn’t smell bad or look greasy or filthy, I don’t really care too much what a house looks like.

            • Marc Iverson says:

              Well said.

              This is not only a problem for younger people, but for elders as well. Sometimes retired people, or people close to that age, find they don’t know what to do with themselves, since they have defined so much of their self-image by work. Some parents feel something of the same thing when the kids move out of the house — What do I do now?

              The answer is often to find busywork to do and give it undue priority. In the case of my own parents, I find that their greatest pleasure is to be together, but one of them tends to find so much busywork to do that it takes away a great deal of time to spend with her partner, as well as the requisite energy to enjoy it. And as they grow older together, the time they will have left grows shorter. So what they would really be wise to do is close down the more trivial parts of their lives, get rid of self-imposed aggravations and time sinks, and spend more time together enjoying the time they have left.

              It’s not always important to be so busy, methinks, especially when the busy-ness is much ado about nothing and takes irreplaceable time away from the couple.

          • Richard Aubrey says:

            The article says the man does the mowing.
            Now, suppose both do the mowing. Are we going to hear the woman did? Damn betcha. Are we going to count the man’s mowing? Nope. It’s enjoyable.

          • @Sarah, the article says it and discounts it as housework. I see women mowing here but the majority of mowers are men where I live in Aus. Women tend to do inside housework more, but on the other hand I usually find women’s standards for cleaning are higher than mens and at times can create too much housework, by that I mean vacuuming multiple times per week when the floors still look clean.

            Seems most people here work fulltime, many of the men goto the mines to work 7, 14, 21, 30 days on with 7 day breaks with 12 hour shifts (yes up to 84 hours a week), some women also goto the mines but mostly I see them work locally for 40 hours if that but they usually put the kids into childcare whilst everyone is working though I think the miner-style families usually have stay at home mums since the father is earning 2-3 peoples average income. Problem is that level of working, isolation, working conditions are tough to do and health suffers but these men n women do it to earn the big money quick. If you can do it successfully you’ll be able to buy a house quick and go back to a better job close to home, where you see your partner, get to actually goto shops, movies, etc vs the mines which barely have anything to do after work cept drink a lot of alcohol, go fishing if you’re lucky, sit around with a mostly male community and sleep.

            My cousin, she doesn’t work much but is at university but has a partner on the mines, it allows her to setup the home nicely for when he comes home. From what I hear of his job working in 40+degree heat underground, very few people stay in that job, and he’s often dehydrated and heatstressed it’s an extremely hard job and without her he probably wouldn’t be able to do it if he had to do a heap of housework when he got home since he has to recover his body strength for most of his break. It’s good money but the toll taken on your body is incredible, some jobs you don’t need to work very long, you could work 40 hours a week in but their toll is extreme. You partner could work longer than you, but you’ve used a hell of a lot more energy, sweat, your body needs far more time to recover so you can’t do anywhere near as much housework as they do otherwise you’d never heal up properly.

            I know when I mow in the heat here for an hour or 2, I sweat up to 3 litres or so of sweat (you can weigh yourself before n after n see how much you lose), it’s a hot n humid area so my shirt will be drenched, I sometimes get heatstressed bad, I feel very drained and I come back into the house around 6pm and it’s time to cook but I am exhausted for the next 4 hours and have to sit n rest after a cold shower. I couldn’t imagine how tired I’d be after an 8 hour day of that, to expect someone to do that and then do housework that night would be insane. Luckily mowing is once a week so I do housework n cooking at other times, but if I did that 5 or 6 days a week locally, or if I did a mining job? I’d have much less energy n ability to do work vs if I was working in an office air-conditioned all day. This isn’t limited to one gender btw, the averages of jobs may lead more men to do high physical exertion stuff which drains them quicker than other jobs so I think that may play a role in who does more housework. I’m sure a nurse for instance with their stupidly long n crazy hours (so it seems here in Aus) would be far less able to do housework than say an office worker with a fairly low job load.

            • Agreed on this one too. Everyone’s work situation is different, and each couple should work out their own system (one that both partners are okay with and feel is fair).

      • “Speaking for myself, if I bought a house with a huge yard so I could have a giant yard with short grass on it, then I’ve put that mowing labor on myself. I put myself in that position.”
        Yeah problem as you mention is if you don’t mow, you get snakes, taipans which can kill you pretty easily if you don’t get to hospital in time. Not to mention the social shaming that happens. It rains here a lot and I mow the lawn low, 3 days later it’s ready to be mowed again. Mowing also requires weed whacking/whipper snipping too to look half decent.

        The argument of having too much lawn means putting more work for yourself also includes how people get bigger homes that take longer to clean, or people (often women I hear) who’s cleaning standards are higher and so they have to clean more often (maybe vacuum twice a week). Anyone can make too much work for themselves, and I think it’s bad for a wife who wants the house vacuumed 2-3x a week to dare blame the husband for not helping out enough if hubby is ok with once a week vacuum. You want the extra cleaning done, then start cleaning it yourself, both should do it to a decent standard but vacuuming more than once a week is not necessary cept for extremely dusty environments maybe.

        Most of the modern world uses metric, I dunno why America is so afraid to change to it, it’s so much easier…:P

        As for Australia’s poionous animals, yeah we even have birds with barbs on them that are poisonous lol. Most of the time if you don’t fuck with animals, you will be fine. People usually get bitten/hurt when they try to kill the snake or startle it. When I work in long grass I bang the ground and make heaps of noise, walk away for a lil bit n come back hopefully with the snake being able to leave if it was there. I dislike killing, I just want the animals to leave me alone and I’ll do the same so I try to find ways to avoid killing. Snake catchers are damn handy folk to call though, let them get bit instead lol.

      • Marc Iverson says:

        You raise some strong points. I grew up in a house in which we had to vacuum and polish the furniture every day. In college I had roommates who figured they might as well not even try to wash the dishes, because after a while, someone else would have to do it for them. As an adult, I visited the home of a friend who thought he shouldn’t flush the toilet because it wastes water.

        Everyone has different standards and viewpoints, and many devolve down to preferences and notions rather than necessity. Confusing the two is foolish and can cause a great deal of strain and bad feeling between people.

        One cannot have a clean house if it’s filled with dirty dishes; however, someone’s constant desire to rake up every leaf in the yard without the willingness to do so ungrudingly herself, or someone’s choosing the self-satisfaction gained from having a large and high-maintenance garden instead of a small and simple one, may imposes one’s choices on another and recast them damagingly in the light of superior values or greater cleanliness. The truth is that such things are not necessary and others may find far more productive and pleasure uses of their time. The ambitious gardener, then, may wind up feeling unappreciated for doing what nobody he values in the first place, or he may try to get others to give up what they want in order to help him do what he wants, and be angry if no one is interested in contributing to what, after all, no one else values. It’s a common ego mistake that can lead to huge tensions and disappointments that are hubristic and unwarranted.

        I have little sympathy for those who burden others with make-work instead of real work or feel the time and energy of others is a free resource.

  4. Marc Iverson says:

    Even when science isn’t sponsored directly, it is often in bed with advocacy or co-opted by interest grouops. There is little of practical effect or intellectual value that can stand on equal footing with science, but science only achieves its credibility because its premises can be freely and openly questioned. Regardless of where one stands on the issues that may surround any bit of science, questioning and verifying are always healthy and indeed at the core of the scientific process itself. In our media-saturated world, in which science is sought out and reported particularly for its value as controversy, corporations and interest groups regularly fund “science” to advance their interests, and the most preliminary studies are given the same emphasis as well-proven work and often much more coverage, it’s especially important that we temper curiosity with fair-mindedness and balance.

    • I really wish more media organizations employed writers who better understood the scientific research process- especailly those who can identify unintended or intended biases in social science research.

      • As someone who has conducted social research and taken many a course in survey writing and research methods, and who now works in media, I definitely understand where you’re coming from. But many journalists don’t take it as their goal to criticize research. Their goal is primarily to inform the public that a research project is happening and the findings say… blah blah blah. These news reports will not skew the findings any further than the researcher did her/himself. They’re simply reporting without tone or judgment. It is not always the media’s job to expose biased research, though to be honest I deeply respect journalists who do.

        • Sarah- I may have overstated this phonomenon in my comments. But this issue is a bit of a hobby-horse for me.

          Recently, several MAJOR news outlets (NYTimes, WSJ, Forbes, HuffPo) picked up on a study by two sociologists who according to the “journalists” involved, found that people who telecommute work longer hours than those who don’t and therefore, telecommuting is not good for work-family balance.

          Of course, if the reporters actually READ THE STUDY instead of just the press release, they would have seen that the study:
          – used BLS data from 1995
          – compared job categories against each other (no suprise that managerial/professional jobs that are amenable to telecommuting required more work time than hourly jobs, which generally are not)
          – the data did not allow the actual comparison that could have tested the hypotheses- it could not compare those in similar jobs (those with job X who telecommuted vsthose with job X who did not)
          – the authors were responsible, tested hat they could, and fully qualified that the implications of their study were limited based on what the data did not allow them to test

          …But of course, the media did not present a nuanced case- they ran stories like “telecommuting is bad for wf balance”

          As a social science researcher, it angroes up my blood when I see this.

          • Of course. Sensationalism is not good journalism and the more the 24-hour news cycle continues to require volume of articles over quality, the less time insightful, well-intentioned journalists have to devote to research and nuanced reporting. The burden ever increasingly falls on the reader to follow up on a subject and develop their own depth of understanding of the content, which many readers simply won’t do. It’s an unfortunate trend, and one that I think we’ll have to live with. I’m not sure how anyone could work to reverse it. But that, too, is a totally different subject.

            • Marc Iverson says:

              This is and seems to have always been an ongoing problem with the nature of “news” itself. Stories are brought up and only sometimes related with any depth or insight, but perhaps worse is that there is usually limited follow up and then none at all. Today’s crushingly urgent economic or social problem or scandal is tomorrow’s footnote and forgotten by next week.

              Centrally important to news having any value outside sensation and entertainment is providing context, and the ongoing rush of unrelated event all but guarantees that context will be impossible to establish and maintain. Even a huge number of single daily articles or “news bites” is unlikely to add up to a workable understanding of any but the simplest and most transparent issues and events.

              Encouraging more long-form journalism would reward readers with greater opportunities for understanding and journalists with more opportunities to communicate with depth and vigor rather than glancingly. It tends to be series rather than single articles that win newspapers Pulitzer prizes. But papers run far fewer of them than they used to. That newspapers are so lightweight these days is one reason they have lost so much circulation. I used to read three a day and many magazines, and now I just stick to the magazines and get my news — from which I expect very little and so am only infrequently disappointed — online for free.

              Perhaps I wouldn’t be so disappointed in newspapers today if I hadn’t grown up holding them in such esteem. But I’m in my 50’s, and the generations after mine suffer no such burden. Print newspapers probably have little chance of roping them in as consumers, because there is no nostalgia for high standards to trade on.

  5. Scott…I think we should add to this the hours,days,months and years men spend coaching and mentoring not only their children,but others children as well. Coaching a single team takes me 20/25 hours a week,plus money out of my pocket for 6 months a year. Just today, a mom said,not more than 30mins ago,that it was MY job to do this.

  6. Having shared accommodation with many groups and persons over the years, one of the things that you soon learn is that people have different expectations of how the house or home environment should be. Some have extremely high expectations and others are very happy to live in a house where people hold lower standards of tidiness. In such situations the people with the highest expectations can frequently impose their standards upon everyone else and accuse everyone else of not pulling their weight when their standards are not met. Other people genuinely can be selfish and lazy and expect others to keep the house clean for them, imposing standards upon others to which they do not hold themselves.

    Something that is often not addressed enough in these discussions about the ‘second shift’ is whose demands women are trying to meet and what standards men are failing to meet when they are supposedly ‘not pulling their weight’. Are the standards those of a negotiated medium, where both parties make reasonable accommodations to the standards of the other (if one party wants to hold higher standards than this, they can make up the difference themselves, with no accusation of the other party)? Or are the higher demands of one party being forced upon everyone else?

    There is also an issue here of ownership and responsibility. In many living situations, the people with higher standards for shared accommodation are also presuming and exercising greater ownership of it. They are the ones who want the shared living areas to be tidy for their dinner parties and the like. They want the place to conform primarily to their aesthetic standards, rather than to those of other parties. We need to be generous and make allowances for people in such situations, recognizing that such things are very important to certain persons and helping out in various ways. However, if you want to assume primary ownership and use of shared property, it is only reasonable that you should be expected to work a lot more and invest a lot more into its maintenance. I think that it is fair to say that, in most homes, men are not the ones who claim primary ownership of the shared living space (the ‘man cave’ is often an attempt for the man to carve out a little space of his own in a home that is filled by his wife’s preferred objects and according to her aesthetic and use preferences). Is it unreasonable that they should not have the primary responsibility for maintaining it?

    • The fact that, in a couple, there is often a disagreement about standards of cleanliness, etc. is a really interesting and imortant point.

      My wife and i have an agreement- we can ask the other to do something, or we can tell them how to do it, but we can’t do both!!!

  7. wellokaythen says:

    Look at it from another angle, that of the repairman:

    When the repairman gets paid to fix something in a house, he’s doing work, and that labor counts as labor. Maybe he enjoys it, maybe not, but the paid labor stats don’t care if you enjoy it or not, so why should it matter for unpaid labor? If two people do the same job, one gets paid and one doesn’t, the work is still the same work. Labor is labor, whether you’re a professional or a volunteer.

  8. I agree that in many hetero couples with traditional gender roles, men do a lot of the difficult “handy” housework that comes with home ownership. But there are a few glaring things that I see missing from this article.

    1) Many couples (especially young couples) do not own homes. They rent, and their maintenance, shoveling, mowing and landscaping are taken care of by their landlord. In these situations, do we tell the young men that in order to keep up an equal amount of work, they should do more dishes, cooking, cleaning or laundry? If you didn’t have those man chores to do, how would you spend that extra hour every week? Would you do other chores? More to my point, would society expect you to? I don’t think it would. The ideology behind the activism on this subject should be less about concrete numbers, and more about neutralizing a social climate that expects different things of men and women.

    2) There are many, many couples (again, especially young couples) whose responsibilities and actions do not fit neatly into the “man chore box” and “female chore box”. Many men cook and clean. Many women know how to grout, do taxes, and fix a car. Instead of lambasting the media agencies that may have no intention of being “critical”, but rather just intend to report on another person’s findings, or the research agencies that are trying to figure out how society works in hopes of addressing injustices and making the world a better place to live for men and women alike, we should focus on encouraging men and women that it’s okay to cross the gender divide, and that everyone should be sharing in the chore duties.

    3) You misinterpret the last two sentences of the PSID study you quote. The quote states: “Other activities such as home repairs, mowing the lawn, and shoveling snow were not in the study. Items such as gardening are usually viewed as more enjoyable; the focus here is on core housework.” These are two different sentences, making two separate points. First they say that home repairs, mowing the lawn, and shoveling snow were not in the study. Then they say items such as gardening are viewed as enjoyable. Never do they say or even imply that the chores in the first sentence are viewed as enjoyable. They simply state that they were not in the study, and then go one to make a different point in the next sentence.

    4) Completely left out of this article is the other (and arguably bigger) side of the double burden – parenting. Even if a male partner in a hetero relationship does everything in his power to care for his children, certain aspects of child care are socially expected to be carried out by women – and, more to my point, NOT expected of men. That is, men are expected to NOT be as nurturing as women. In order to break this second shift (or “double burden”) on women, we need to make it okay for men to be what many would call “feminine” without risking the credibility of their manhood. It’s a culture issue. Also left out is the discrimination still faced by many young women, who are seen as “risky” hires, since they may require maternity leave in the near future. So, to prove themselves worthy of both a job and a maternally fulfilling home life, women do both – they work 40 hours per week and care for children in all of their spare time. Of men, this is not expected. We do not have paternity leave benefits in this country. Why? Because ladies are expected to be the ones taking care of the children.

    So in effect, I think I agree with you. But I suppose my overarching point here is that it’s not an issue of reporting or not reporting certain chores. It’s about creating a culture of egalitarianism between the sexes and their responsibilities at work, at home, and within the family structure.

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      How do you define “nurturing”? Is that the cuddling thing? Parenting includes considerably more than that, including teaching a kid how to…take out the garbage. Hardly cuddling. Simply being nearby when kids are playing in case something goes wrong might not be much of a chore, except for letting them make their own mistakes, but it does foreclose being someplace else entirely.

      • I would define nurturing parenting as simply being involved. That means everything from being available to hear how your child’s day at school was to teaching them how to do chores of all kinds to helping with homework to supervising their playtime to hosting birthday parties and sleepovers to attending PTA meetings to carting them around to play rehearsal and soccer practice… And so on. These are jobs that are overwhelmingly expected of the mother (and if she doesn’t do them she is neglectful, or too focused on her career, or shouldn’t have had children if she can’t care for them), whereas when a man does them we laud him for his exceptionally unusual above-and-beyond involvement in his child’s life. The politics are uneven. Though we expect both parents to be involved, we still expect men to put work first and women to put family first…while also expecting women to work if they are to be considered independent, feminist women. It’s a double standard.

        • Marc Iverson says:

          I don’t think one has to be considered an independent, feminist woman to work or to work while still having children. Many if not most women work for money rather than as a political statement, and wouldn’t count themselves either as having feminist ideals and sympathies or not having them simply for the fact that they work. Society presently requires the income of two partners at all but the top and bottom ends of the scale if one wishes for any kind of security or freedom from the dreaded knock of the bill collector.

          • I don’t think so either, but historically women have been told “you can have it all” when really it’s “you have no choice but to do it all.” As I said in my comment @Archy, the only way we’re going to have full gender equality – and, for that matter, the best way to achieve an egalitarian society and the most enjoyable human experience for all genders – is if we stop telling men that doing “feminine” chores somehow discounts their masculinity. On the contrary, it seems to me that generally the men who follow and comment on this site believe that parenting (at least) is a good way to be a good man. That’s what we need – a more egalitarian attitude across all these areas.

            • Marc Iverson says:

              I agree. It’s amazing how the outwardly roughest-edged guys can be so nose-up-in-the-air dainty about washing dishes or cleaning toilets. Most of the men I’ve known like this have had mothers who pampered the daylights out of them and never let them lift a finger around the house; often the worst were only children.

              I don’t believe a child should work enough to cut off his childhood at the knees, but learning to pitch in a bit when young makes for a healthier and happier adult, and one much easier for others to get along with. The young boy whose mother never expects him to clean anything up will probably expect his future wife to handle all housework too. And probably won’t particularly appreciate the effort, but rather regard it as somehow his due.

        • “And so on. These are jobs that are overwhelmingly expected of the mother (and if she doesn’t do them she is neglectful, or too focused on her career, or shouldn’t have had children if she can’t care for them), whereas when a man does them we laud him for his exceptionally unusual above-and-beyond involvement in his child’s life.”
          Because of sexist assumptions that men don’t do much for their kids so we think men are extra special if they take notice. But growing up I had my father spend plenty of time with me, and also I saw men coaching sports etc, taking their kids fishing or camping, whatever. My father came home from work and did cleaning, cooking, then on sunday he was on the boat fishing. When mum was working the sharing of housework was more 50:50, when she was a stay at home mum she did most of it during the day when he was at work but I do believe he was still doing a fair bit.

          The double standards need to disappear, we need to trust men around kids far more and then we might see society allow men to be fathers. I saw a mother freak out on facebook where she was worried about letting the father go on a trip alone to the grandparents with their child, she was pretty clearly not trusting his ability and also dealing with issues of attachment. If she can’t trust the father and doesn’t give him time alone with the child to even learn how to take care of her, how is he meant to learn or help?

          • 110% agree with this. In it’s simplest form, my view on this issue can be summed up in the statement: the only way we are going to achieve total gender equality is if we start teaching men and allowing men to be and do things that are traditionally considered “feminine”.

            • I’m not sure what jobs at home would be considered feminine, I live with my mother n brother and we all pitch in and share the workload. I tend to do the more masculine jobs I guess, maintenance of house (saved many $$$ in repairs), yard work, external cleaning (spray paths, wash windows, clean patio, I also vacuum, cook n clean inside at times too. I do my own washing, etc and we share the cooking duties. I don’t have kids though so no chance to look after babies, looking after my puppy when he was young scared me enough to make me seriously consider a vasectomy at how stressful it is when you have little sleep (first few days puppy learning to be on it’s own howling out since you can’t be there 24/7 with them and you need sleep). Hats off to parents, I dunno how the hell they can handle it, the responsibility n loss of freedom sounds scary as hell. :P

    • Sarah, you do realize men are expected to work more than women right at a job? Women on average work less than 40 hours then come home to do their second shift, whilst men on average just do more hours on the job and fewer at home, it roughly evens out but has men working half an hour more when you tally both up last time I saw the labor stats. This only counts hours and not exertion though, mental or physical, washing dishes doesn’t tax much energy but I’m sure doing it with a rugrat knocking shit over n breaking stuff (like me as a kid) would be very demanding, just as sweating your ass off in 35 degree heat doing the yard work and coming back in after 2 hours having to dive into the shower so you don’t heatstroke is demanding (like I did 3 weeks ago when I overheated badly doing yardwork at 4pm-6pm! )

      Jobs that are so different are too hard to compare, I do agree both genders should be doing any jobs. Women should know how to fix their car and men how to raise their kid.

      • Here you are leaving out a large chunk of women who do work 40 or more hours per week and who are still expected to come home, cook dinner, help with homework, etc. This daily second shift is not expected of men; their expectation is that they should work harder and longer hours at their job.

        On another note, it is precisely because of the position you take in this comment that many women do not or can not progress in high power, highly mentally and physically demanding jobs and also hope to have a family. When people promote the idea that women work less because they have to go home and take care of their family, this translates on the practical level to women being passed up for promotions. Many women have a hard time advancing in their field while their children are young. Men on the other hand, since their career is deemed to be the most important way they can contribute to the well-being of their family, have no problem with this stigma. Even if they are working late, missing the opportunity to supervise play dates, cart their kids and friends around, cook or attend dinner and clean the house on a daily basis, this is more acceptable for men than for women. I agree completely when you start talking about how the 40 hour work week is stretching to 60 hours or more in some professions, that this is an unfortunate burden and it is largely shouldered by men because of the second shift burden being largely (though not exclusively) shouldered by women.

        The answer, again, is to take a critical look at why we separate expectations by gender, and to break down those traditions.

        • I’m with sarah here. I believe the work shift and the house-work shifts need to be shared in a way that works for the whole family- and not to overload one role on one person and the other on the other.

          There is still a lot of work to overcome traditional roles when those roles don’t suit the people involved.

        • Marc Iverson says:

          But is it strictly true that women only “have to” go home and take care of their families … or do they also simply “want to” do so? I hope most people of either sex would want to go home and take care of their family as soon as practicably possible.

          When an employer is faced with the choice between promoting someone who works more hours and another who works less, is it really fair to blame that employer, or “the system,” for the choice to promote the person who works more hours than the other?

          If the person who works more hours is a man, should the employer discount his extra effort? If the person who works fewer hours is a woman, should the employer discount that difference? Or is the question really a simple “Who works more hours?”

          One of the main reasons families, as well as single women, are delaying childbirth for so long, historically speaking, is that careers tend to take a large amount of focused, uninterrupted time to develop. Taking care of children, like any other activity, is a commitment of time and energy — in this case a substantial and lasting one. Childbirth and child care are personal, not corporate, choices. Employers are unlikely to find it adding to their bottom lines. That taking time away from the company for private matters is not done without cost to one’s career is a logical outcome, whatever those matters may be. The fact that society, and its individual members as a whole, value raising children more than, say, taking time out to go painting in the springtime, doesn’t affect the corporate viewpoint over who to promote because such activities operate in a different and private sphere. To the employer, time missed for this reason is the same as time missed for that one.

          The idea that women can “have it all” is terribly damaging, because nobody ever could. Not men nor women. It used to be that men gave up being closer to their families in order to work, while women gave up work in order to raise families. That the sexually-based difference in occupation is now less dramatic doesn’t mean the trade-offs will ever go away. And this regardless of which sex is doing the childrearing and which is doing the career and job thing.

          When the trade-off is made in favor of work, the family will always suffer and relationships will be stunted, no matter what brave new social world we find ourselves living in. And if a trade-off is made in favor of family, work will necessarily suffer and careers will be stunted. Nobody will ever get something for nothing.

          • No one can have it all. Not women, not men. Maybe maybe maybe, a family working as a team can. But this assumes everyoe does a equitable (not necessarily equal) share, appreciates the other, and works out arragements that work for all.

            equitable- everyone’s needs and priorities considered before decisions are made
            equal- everyone gets the same

            • Marc Iverson says:

              Agreed. Trying to do everything equally can lead to keeping unhealthy scorecards and being an overall life nit. It’s almost impossible to split everything equally for long anyway. Trying to be equitable, by contrast, can and should be the basis for a whole relationship.

        • “Here you are leaving out a large chunk of women who do work 40 or more hours per week and who are still expected to come home, cook dinner, help with
          homework, etc. This daily second shift is not expected of men; their expectation is that they should work harder and longer hours at their job.”

          All of this of course was simply averages that I’ve seen, some familes have women as breadwinner, man as SAHD, etc. The increased hours worked extend up to 60+ for some men, just as women do say 40+ at work and the rest at home and I’m guessing this is more common than the reverse. I think on average the numbers are pretty neck n neck in total effort put into a family but are at different work areas (home vs school) and the types of jobs differ as well. Don’t forget how many men vs women are doing extremely dangerous jobs too, over 95% of job death’s are male. Looking at the value of input by hours worked alone is too narrow to truly try compare the effort each gender puts into their family, physical and mental exertion, hours worked, stress incurred, health risks, danger, comfort (as in office worker vs roofers working 50degree heat). I think all in all in most relationships both people work pretty hard to keep their family safe, I’ve usually seen both genders even out in work done. I may be wrong or overly optimistic but I can’t see any numbers suggesting women do more work overall, just their spread is more at home. The only stats that suggested women do more overall work in the west had the bias of ignoring jobs the researcher thought was fun, such as maintenance, yard work, etc. I actually find cleaning fun, I love cleaning with a pressure sprayer, I like cleaning the windows n vacuuming isn’t too bad either, I feel a sense of pride once the house is cleaner. Does that mean all my housework I do is to be ignored? (I dream of a water proof house, spray everything down :D)

          “Men on the other hand, since their career is deemed to be the most important way they can contribute to the well-being of their family, have no problem with this stigma. Even if they are working late, missing the opportunity to supervise play dates, cart their kids and friends around, cook or attend dinner and clean the house on a daily basis, this is more acceptable for men than for women”
          Yeah sadly women get the burdens of childcare plus the benefits (as in trust around children, time spent with kids, etc) whilst men get the burdens of work (stress, danger, etc) and the benefits (better careers, etc). I hope to see a day when these become genderless, and I really hope for robot servants or at least flexible work areas where the parent can work and still raise their kid without needing to dump them in childcare like they do here (which often costs as much as they get from working).

          As other comments say, no one can have it all. Men may get the better career, more income, but he’s also thrown into dangerous jobs more often and he loses out more time with the kids whilst women get the reverse which is just as limiting. High end jobs though require way too many hours, if you need to work 60 hours a week, hell even 50, I question if it’s really worth it? We should work to live, not live to work. A good balance of work n life is important to me, sure extra money is nice but when the hell would you get to spend it? I feel really sorry for those who have to work so many hours just to afford a basic life though, I wish society could have people work 20 hours a week and afford a fairly decent quality of life. Spend that extra time inventing stuff, creating something, but I may be a dreamer.

  9. So much to say. So much to say.
    A specific comment: Perhaps it would help if the time-use research had some way of including a more qualitative set of factors like “leisure” and “enjoyability” and “appreciation” to tease out the perceived gaps from the actual ones. It is also important to capture these gaps over time, since things often change after the birth of the first child.
    More general comment: Certainly, the “second shift” is becoming less of a gender-linked phenomenon, but entrenched inequalities related to the division of labor at home continue to exist and have important and measurable consequences. Your reductionist comment that one hour a week is not “the demise of feminism and equal opportunity that it is often made out to be” is not only a prime example of the poor media coverage you admonish but it also minimizes the real-life impacts of this conversation. This isn’t as simple as counting hours and declaring equality. What happens at home for men *and* women affects everything from their own psychological well-being and financial livelihood to their contribution or contradiction of societal norms and the perpetuation or mutation of those norms in the next generation. As you know, work and family influence each other in a myriad of ways. The wage and wealth gap between women (especially mothers) and men continues, family leave legislation remains inadequate, employer expectations are still largely inflexible – these are all examples of the practical implications this issue has on both individual and collective levels.
    I DO think real and lasting gender equality will only come to fruition if we look closely and critically at the work/life balance of both men and women. I argued as much in a piece I wrote for the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law in 2007 about the “Daddy Double-Bind” and how it affects the ongoing shift in gender roles. So your piece is really important in highlighting the fluidity of domestic labor and the gendered assumptions and associations we make. Reading everyone’s comments (and following GMP) makes me hopeful that progress is being made. So, Thanks!

    • Amen to this! Well-put.

    • I could not agree more to this: “I DO think real and lasting gender equality will only come to fruition if we look closely and critically at the work/life balance of both men and women”

      This has been a big part of my academic research, professional work and the very focus on my blog. Things are starting to slowly change for the better.

      I agree to most of your other points, as well- excellent comment.

    • Marc Iverson says:

      How do you define “inadequate” or “inflexible” employer demands and expectations?

      Defining them as inadequate supposes certain values that may not be universally held and may be out of place to ascribe to something like a business — it not being a person with “values” so to speak, anyway.

      Is it really the purpose of business to help finance employee lifestyle decisions such as childbirth? Is having children a task absolutely necessary for society to prioritize and pour resources into? If so, how do we measure it? Is someone having eight children better than someone having one? If so, by what factor?

      What we are really talking about is human values here, and if there is room for them to intrude upon the workings of a business, shouldn’t this demand for “flexibility” run both ways? Should businesses put their interests in an employee’s time and energy aside unquestioningly and whenever asked, or should they be allowed to participate in the decision making process by, say, demanding new children not be had for a contractual period of time?

      If the latter sounds like a shockingly arrogant assumption or thing for a business to ask of an employee, should we take it for granted that no personal family choice bears questioning, but every one and to its every limit, deserves employer financing and support?

      • A company with a long-term approach to employees they value should see that working with employees and helping them with work-family balance helps achieve sustainable, long-term success (there’s a lot of evidence for this- but just check out the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list for easy examples).

        Another example- The most definitive study on the effects of telecommuting, which involved over 46 organizations and 12,500 employees, found that part-time telecommuting results in:
        ■Higher employee job satisfaction and organizational commitment
        ■Slightly higher levels of employee performance (All the accumulated evidence shows that, for appropriate jobs, partial telecommuting at worst is performance-neutral, and many studies demonstrate moderate performance gains)
        ■Lowered employee turnover intentions, employee stress and work-family conflict
        ■No evidence on harming workplace relationships for those who telecommute fewer than 2.5 days a week.

        • Marc Iverson says:

          A lot of companies do everything in their power to routinize work and systematize it so that the individual contributions of any one employee — especially a “below the line” employee — are not such that going without them would materially affect an operation for long, and indeed so that they can be easily replaced.

          Not every company is of the same type or contains the same sort of jobs. The long-term trend, though, is for companies to immunize themselves against the personal lifestyle choices of their employees by making as many jobs as possible less critical. The unfortunate effect of that is it also makes jobs less remunerative and less likely to lead to advancement.

          The employee who wants the greatest possible freedom regarding his lifestyle choices and the employer who needs his employee to reliably show up and fully commit to his work will always be taking essentially adversarial positions. American society has not reached a mature understanding regarding what employers should pay for and allow, and how freely, but neither do there seem to be much in the way of limits to the expectations of employees regarding how much they think their lives should intrude upon the needs of employers — and, as it very often works out, upon the workload of their coworkers asked to make up the difference without recompense when another employee decides his or her own family commitments and lifestyle needs take first place over anyone else’s.

      • Straw men everywhere!
        @Marc – Family leave legislation is “inadequate” for several reasons, among them: 1) it only applies to larger companies, which leaves a huge portion of workers ineligible; 2) it is unpaid, which means another large portion of low- and middle-income workers can’t afford it; and 3) the reinstatement rules have not been robustly enforced, which means even when a worker is eligible and can afford leave they are still sometimes risking their jobs/careers if they take it. This is not to say the legislation is totally without value. For one, apropos of this conversation, it was written in a gender neutral way so both men and women can access it. And two, it also helps support a “new norm” in employer policies toward family and medical leave so they are much more flexible than they used to be.

        However, employer expectations remain “inflexible” on several levels (especially when the unemployment rate goes up because that gives employees less negotiating power). I appreciate that it is important to look at work/family issues from the employers perspective too, but it doesn’t have to be the kind of false all-or-nothing scenarios you describe. In fact, one of the the central themes throughout this conversation is choices. The menu of choices for both men and women within both employed and domestic labor is expanding, but it’s not happening as fast as it could.
        For example, in her 2010 book “Opting Out,” Pamela Stone shows that the recent increase in highly-educated SAHM (like myself) is largely due to the fact that employers still avoid flexible arrangements like job-sharing, tele-commuting, and part-time work. If given a “choice,” women (and men!) usually say they want to find a middle-ground where they can provide value to their families and continue to provide value in their professions, but they are still often forced to “choose” one OR the other.
        As many observers (including Scott) have noted, it is often to the employer’s benefit to be more flexible, but for various reasons employers are stuck in traditional norms of what the “ideal worker” should be. Just as we are discussing the hidden assumptions surrounding domestic labor, there are all sorts of hidden assumptions woven into employed labor too – and my point was that these realms interact and affect each other. The question at the heart of this issue, namely “how do you spend your time?”, isn’t just about “personal lifestyle choices” but also must be viewed within a larger context of competing demands, limited resources, and gendered norms at home AND at work.

        • Beautifully put.

        • Marc Iverson says:

          Notice that all these choices are framed as choices for employees, nor employers. Where are the choices for the employer in all this? Is the employer not supposed to have any?

          And therein lies part of the answer to why society still hasn’t come to a reasonable way of grappling with such problems. We’re not really addressing them all that forthrightly. When family is celebrated above all things, it immediately sounds right. But only when leaving questions of cost and balance out of the equation.

          It is not a no-cost problem when employees disappear for months, weeks, days, even hours at a time. Significantly — and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard both men and women in the workplace complaining about this — it is not just the company that has to bear the burdens of people taking time off for family matters. Sometimes it is not even the company at all. It is the other employees who are called upon — some of whom have kids or other responsibilities of their own and few of whom want to be routinely imposed on and taken for granted — that must make up the difference. When one employee disappears, another employee must work late, skip lunch, come in weekends, or otherwise bear the stress and time commitment of getting through not just their own job, but all or part of someone else’s as well. This is a real rubber-meets-the-road in daily life in the offices I’ve worked in.

          Whenever we talk about someone getting more of this or that, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It usually means someone else has to do more if someone else is going to do less. Whether we like it or not, our family needs regularly impose on others. You can’t get something for nothing, yet these issues are often spoken of as if they are cost-free or as if we have the right to expect others to shoulder our burdens.

          • This is a crucial point.

            Rather too much ‘gender equality’ is about accusing many men for not having the same priorities as many women and opposing the idea that men should have any advantage in the workplace or elsewhere for putting a greater priority on work relative to domestic attachments and the maintenance of the domestic environment than women do. It is also about ideologically-driven resistance to the reality that social networks that are non-intimate and not emotionally affirming, but assertive, agentic, competitive, and agonistic, forming broad, shallow, and hierarchical networks (i.e. a sort of socialization that men often prefer), rather than closer and more egalitarian ones will tend to produce more power than the sorts of social networking that women will often tend to prefer.

            Ultimately, there is a price to be paid for pretending that real differences don’t exist. We need to pay more attention to who is picking up the tab. We also need to think more seriously about ways in which we can be honest about the differences that exist between men and women as a general rule when it comes to motivations, priorities, forms of socialization and interaction, etc. We need to create a world where people are rewarded, rather than penalized or handicapped for excelling, and where we can value and honour each person, without that meaning that everyone should be rendered commensurate or ‘equal’ when they are very different.

            • I guess I need to repeat a few things:
              – “Equality” in this context is about both men and women having a *menu* of choices (real, viable options) for how they spend their time. That includes a man putting “a greater priority on work” and the woman in his life “picking up the tab” at home. And vice versa. My concern is not *what* people choose, it’s *whether* they really have the opportunity.
              – It IS important to include the employer’s point of view when discussing work/family dynamics. Employers have promises to keep. They have *limited resources* to fulfill those promises. They are trying to balance the *competing demands* of employees, suppliers, investors, regulators, and customers. Employers also provide value to society – jobs, products/services, profits. They fuel the economy. All of this is true. What is also true is that the wealth and income gap between those at the top and everybody else is growing at alarming rates. The middle-class is shrinking. Workers are getting less despite working harder. More working people are stuck in poverty. Yes, employers should (and do) have choices about how they treat their employees and what policies they have for absenteeism. But these choices are not made “in a vacuum” either. The kind of relationship employers have with their employees will affect the health of the business in countless ways. And it has ramifications on the health of society as a whole.
              – These are not all-or-nothing situations. It does not have to be a zero-sum game. An employee’s satisfaction with work/family balance can make them *more* productive (and more pleasant to be around), which benefits the employer AND co-workers. Allowing more flexibility doesn’t just mean letting people out of work, it could also mean cross-training, job sharing, fluid scheduling and a number of other creative approaches to getting the job done without overburdening anyone.
              – Absolutely we need a world where each person is valued and honored and rewarded for their efforts. Absolutely we need to allow for differences between *and among* men and women. Absolutely we should respect people’s differences. Absolutely we should stop generalizing. I believe these are precisely what this entire conversation is about.

            • Kari,

              I agree with most of what you are saying here. My problem is that rather too much talk about ‘gender equality’ would cease to be cogent if we took seriously the possibility (and, I would argue, reality) that looking at the very general rules for the entire population: a) the identity of men and women tend to be focused on different things – women more on their bodies and their group belonging and men on their agency and their status; b) men and women tend to prioritize different sorts of environments when it comes to establishing their identity, with women typically placing more of an emphasis upon, and hence having higher standards for, the domestic environment than men tend to do; c) men and women tend to prefer different types of socialization, with men much more weighted towards hierarchical, competitive, agonistic, honour-governed, non-intimate, externally-oriented groups and much less weighted towards inclusive, affirming, cooperative, egalitarian, belonging-oriented groups than women are; d) women have a considerably deeper investment of their identity in their children than men do, having borne them in their bodies, nursed them, and having their identity much more connected to their bodies more generally.

              Whether we are talking about equal representation in the halls of power, equal presence in top and cutting edge jobs, equal pay, or even, as this article does, about equality in household chores, if any of the stuff that I have mentioned above is true at a general level, we should expect a marked asymmetry between the sexes in all sorts of areas of life. People who prefer to operate in the manner of the more externally-oriented groups mentioned above will dominate positions of power, influence, and innovation, as that is how power best operates. People who locate their identity more in agency and status will probably have very different kinds of long term potential as employees than those who invest it more in belonging, even when they seem to be doing the same work in the present. People who put more of an emphasis on the domestic environment will expect more from it, have higher standards for it, and claim more ownership of it: it is also perfectly reasonable that they should do more work in it. A person who has more of their identity invested in their children than their partner will typically be the one who makes more career sacrifices for them.

              It is the doctrinaire feminist demand for ‘equality’ in key outcomes for these different parties over the entire population that I have a problem with. Such ‘equality’ can only be achieved by imposing upon or handicapping parties whose preferences, capacities, motivations, priorities, values, sources of identity, or favoured forms of interaction place them at a distinct advantage in the realms of power, whether the workplace or politics. The idea that having few women in top jobs is automatically proof of ‘injustice’, for instance, seems completely wrongheaded to me. While there are definitely ways in which women are treated unjustly in the workplace, the fact that men dominate the top spots and get paid more is not necessarily one of them. If any of the differences mentioned above are accurate, it is exactly what we should expect.

              My question is: can’t we find a way fully to value both men and women without seeking to render them commensurate and ‘equal’ in these senses? It seems to me that such an ideological quest for equality attaches a sense of injustice to natural asymmetries of outcome. It will tend to try to press everyone into the same mould, pulling some people away from the things that matter most to them. For instance, I think that it is telling that men, despite not ‘having it all’, have never had the same existential angst about it. The pressure for women to achieve equal outcomes to men in the workplace in order to secure their identity there and find a deep identity in connection to their children is something that men have never experienced in the same way as a group. It will also lead to people who are naturally more oriented towards the workplace as the primary site for forging identity and towards its more successful forms of interaction will risk being penalized or handicapped in order to secure ‘equality’ for others. Without forcing people into gendered moulds, and while giving everyone opportunities to pursue their own course in life, can we accept that things naturally tend towards a society with fairly pronounced gender asymmetries over the entire population and that this need not be a bad thing?

            • Marc Iverson says:

              Equal opportunity vs. equal outcomes. The fulcrum around which such distinctions operate is the idea of fairness.

              At this point, our society is having a thousands of years long battle over what equal opportunity means, and it is nearly always disingenuous no matter which of many possible sides are doing the talking. This is because advantage is involved, and human nature naturally strains to claim it.

              That slipperiness, given human nature, may well render anything approaching fairness unobtainable not just now, but until the point we genetically mutate and/or wipe each other out in wars so as not to seek unfair and, even more significantly, unacknowledged advantage by which to pursue selfish agendas. Feminism is not an endpoint of social theory. it is one of many midpoints..

              I do not think there is a thing feminism can do or is willing to do, for example, until we eliminate classism. And the American “Horatio Alger/pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” myth and ethos guarantee that vociferously endorsed and celebrated equality will last long past the time many ideals reach fruition.

              Can those who pursue fairness over advantage survive against the power of those who would not? So far, they don’t seem to be doing too well by body count and what there is of the incredibly lethargic social milieu that I can see.

              But perhaps this is a trick question of a grim sort. Is anyone willing to give up advantage for fair play?

              By my professional experience, which is considerable, and private experience, the numbers, charitably, look negligible. Especially under the least imaginable pressure, a factor which is regularly and rather urgently discounted. The world is full of internet saints. What are YOU doing day to day where you work and live?

            • What constitutes ‘fairness’? Surely that is the key question here. And what does ‘equality’ really mean when people aren’t ‘equal’ in most senses, but are actually rather different? Surely we should be aiming for ‘equity’ instead.

            • “Can those who pursue fairness over advantage survive against the power of those who would not?” A resounding YES! Just look at the last 200 years. The status of women, people of color, GLBT, and the disabled have all been dramatically and radically improved in that time period.

              “Is anyone willing to give up advantage for fair play?” A resounding typically not. That’s why we have legislation and litigation. And marches on Washington.

              What Scott’s article doesn’t explain is that this (purported) one-hour difference in total “work” per week is a notable change from even a few years ago. Women used to report significantly less hours of “leisure” time than men, which is why the “second shift” idea came about in the first place. Women fought hard to change the laws (and perception) to gain access to public spaces. A generation of men grew up. Those men are now moving more and more into private spaces through involved parenting, domestic chores, and even full-time stay-at-home arrangements. This is how those who pursue fairness win – struggle, time, and creativity.

            • Marc Iverson says:

              I would also add — implacable endurance.

            • The gendered priorities of “men” and “women” are culturally constructed and socialized. The categories of “masculine” and “feminine” are each taken by many to be entirely inclusive of a list of desires, priorities, and preferences and exclusive of one another. The truth is, the masculine-feminine dynamic is a spectrum, and to list differences between men and women in terms of what they want and how they thrive is to perpetuate gender stereotypes. If there is truth to your statements above, it is that there are traditionally “feminine” and “masculine” preferences; however, these do not exclusively correspond to “women” and “men.” The basic distinction between sex (biology) and gender (culture) is the main issue I take with your assumptions.

              Throughout the history of patriarchal society, masculinity is given value over femininity, so “masculine” preferences are given more positive weight; much of feminist history has striven to “rise” to the same playing field as men. Feminism has told women that it is acceptable for them to be ambitious, to reach out to new and different corners of their abilities and strive for more. To wear pants. To become doctors. To be open about their sexuality. For much of history, women were encouraged to be content with the status quo, and discouraged from striving for more. Conversely, men have always been encouraged to be ambitious. Social norms discourage men from “lowering” themselves to the level of a woman – as evidenced by discrimination against those in “female” professions like nursing, secretarial work, and child care, and the use of gendered insults to demean men and women alike (ex. bitch, pussy). What we have yet to do (fully) is to allow men to do traditionally “feminine” things without the fear of losing their identity or being demeaned.

              There are certainly different priorities held by men and women, but they do not divide as easily down the middle of the gender spectrum as you assume. I understand, you qualify your statements by saying that “men and women tend to prioritize…” But this arbitrary separation of desires and priorities by sex belies the real problem, namely that in order to achieve a true happiness and fulfilled life for people of all genders (which, in my opinion, is the true goal of feminism, with “equality” being the traditional and most concise way of expressing that), we need to be accepting of the priorities of all people, especially when those priorities fall outside the realm of what has traditionally been acceptable for their gender. Whether it’s a man who wants to do housework and be a stay-at-home dad, or a woman who wants to forgo having children to pursue a demanding career, or a man who wants (or needs) to work a full-time job to support his family but also wants to spend time with them by perhaps being allowed some parental leave, or a woman who wants (or needs) to work a full-time job but also wants to spend time with her kids… or a man who wants a high-powered career or a woman who wants to be a stay-at-home mom. All of these alternatives are admirable and should be supported culturally and socially. The problem is that they are not supported equally, and because we assume that women will follow a certain path (marriage, pregnancy, maternity leave, ?), fewer women are hired into high level positions because it is assumed that they will be a burden. The way that the sexes are considered as workers is the central issue – men are more successful because they are socialized to believe that work is their identity. Women are in fewer leadership positions because they are socialized to believe (and the people who hire them are socialized to believe) that they will be a problem. But what if the same was expected of men? What if it was expected that men who work and want to be fathers will need to take “paternity” leave? They way in which different sexes are considered for hire and promotion would change.

              When it comes to how much burden this should place on the employer, I believe the employer is certainly entitled to be worried about their profitability and the strain it might place on other employees. However, I believe this problem could be ameliorated by creating a cultural environment in which we support parents and promote a healthy work-life balance for all people. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game, such that if you want to have kids you must give up a career, or if you want to be promoted and rise up the corporate ladder you can never see your kids. Parental leave for both parents, a workplace environment that doesn’t demand overtime as a measure of success, subsidized child care for parents who are working and contributing to the betterment of society – these would not be unreasonable uses of our time, money, and efforts. The key is allowing men to accept alternative paths just as women have, thanks to feminism. You may not be want to call this “feminism”, you can certainly call it working toward gender equality – not gender sameness, but an equal playing field from which to start.

            • Sarah,
              Of course the gendered priorities are culturally constructed and socialized. For that matter, the elimination of those gendered priorities would be no less – and probably rather more – culturally constructed and socialized.

              I think that you are dodging my point. I only spoke of tendencies of men and women as groups. There are obviously numerous exceptions to group tendencies and we should allow for such. However, one doesn’t have to say that a general tendency applies to every member of a group to acknowledge that there is in fact a general tendency. Taken as groups, there are significant differences between men and women in all sorts of areas. While there is much overlap between the groups in many areas (I never suggested a clean division), it is in large measure on account of the group differences that men will predominate in positions of power and influence, for instance. None of this is changed one whit by allowing individual men or women to follow less conventional routes if they want: the general tendency would still remain.

              If we didn’t recognize the general tendencies of groups, we wouldn’t have things such as insurance. We also need to recognize that there are times when, in the absence of evidence that would paint a clearer or different picture, it is prudent for people to act on the basis of group probabilities when considering action with regard to a member of that group in the face of future uncertainties.

              We have limited resources and so we can’t afford to use them entirely without regard for such things. The fact that such considerations are no longer so pressing upon us is a sign of our modern luxury, not necessarily proof of past injustice. Obviously we want to give people more freedom to be exceptions to their groups. However, providing for this freedom is costly, because we can only be less discriminating in our investing of resources when we have more resources to spare. It is also a costly freedom for groups, as it means that those with more typical motivations and aspirations, often a considerable majority, will often be limited in the degree to which they can dedicate themselves to their preferred ends for the sake of providing for the exceptions. I am strongly in favour of providing for these alternative paths, but we need to be aware of the fact that there is a cost and that someone has to pick up the tab.

              For instance, much of the talk of creating a ‘better work/life balance’ for ‘all employees’, is really about employers and some employees subsidizing the choices of certain employees. Increased flexibility for some employees will tend to mean less flexibility for certain other employees and for employers. ‘Work/life balance’ really is a concept that, in its applications, tends to privilege certain people as having a ‘life’ worth balancing with work – most especially mothers – while others – typically the single or childless – don’t.

              More importantly, however, many of the expectations in this area are about women not wanting to be penalized for prioritizing the demands of motherhood and child-rearing over work. And ‘penalization’ is typically interpreted as being relatively disadvantaged to work colleagues. Having ‘equality’ in outcomes for women in such a position can only be achieved by taking from others to pay for them, by preventing other employees from taking advantage of the fact that they don’t need the same flexibility, by ‘giving’ other employees a flexibility that they may never be able to make use of but merely serves to justify their paying for other parties’ opportunity costs.

              What I take issue with here is not the idea that we should try to encourage employers to offer more flexible positions. We really should do that, but we shouldn’t put the onus on them or our colleagues to subsidize such flexibility. Nor do I take issue with the idea that making greater allowances for men who want to spend more time with their children would also be a great idea.

              My issues lie in a number of different areas. First, while I am strongly in favour of supporting women who want to be mothers, the increasing demand that this support should come from government and businesses all in the name of ‘equality’ is troubling. There is a cultural narrative of individual autonomy underlying this that is far from healthy and the distaste at the idea that women who want to be mothers might need to depend upon a committed and provident spouse in order to do so. Such equalization of people as individuals isn’t actually about doing the best for our children (whose care will typically be outsourced), but about self-realization of independent individuals, of parents who are always free to do without each other.

              Second, behind your suggestions seems to be lurking an illiberal desire to enforce a new set of gendered norms for males, a set of norms shaped by female priorities. You may speak of ‘allowing men to accept alternative paths’, but much of what you are saying is more about putting pressure on men to act in terms of female priorities when it comes to childcare. What if men would prefer not to put the same emphasis on childcare relative to their careers? Why should childcare be equal if it is the case that women are more existentially invested and physically implicated in bearing and raising children? While fathers invested in the lives of their children is a wonderful thing, few fathers are or will ever be as emotionally and personally invested in their children as their wives are.

              Third, the ideal of equality that you put forward seems to be founded upon a rather questionable ideology, an ideology that: a) treats gendered priorities as if they bore little relation to sex and consequently holds that differences are almost thoroughly attributable to and hence malleable to socialization; b) wants government and employers to subsidize the traditionally gendered preferences of women, while discouraging, handicapping, or penalizing the traditionally gendered preferences of men; c) wants government and employers to absorb not only the opportunity costs for traditionally female preferences, but also the extra risk costs associated with their hire and promotion; d) locates equality of dignity far too firmly in the economic sphere and in the denial and muting of marked group differences, in a manner that gives far too much ground to a tendentious anthropology that views persons primarily as independent individual consumers, careerists, and lifestyle choosers, fundamentally undifferentiated; e) places unequal and undesired burdens on various parties, so that mothers’ extra priorities and emotional investments in their domestic life should not lead to them being at all disadvantaged in a realm where those other parties are often far more completely existentially invested; f) seems to be driven by an instinctual dislike for any sort of gender asymmetry in society, in a manner that will try to pressure both men and women into an androgynous norm. More things could be listed, but that is enough to be going on with.

              Even if gender differences are entirely arbitrary, they exist and they are persisting. While not forgetting those parties that overlap, most people are fairly comfortable with the majority of gender norms as they apply to them. While the GMP focuses a lot on the exceptions (those few gender norms that most men feel uncomfortable with and those few men who feel uncomfortable with a marked number of gender norms), it is important to notice that they are exceptions. Most men who are thinking about their masculinity would not resonate with the GMP as much as with other material. This isn’t a bad thing: GMP really speaks to its readership, even though its readership isn’t males in general. We should seek to provide opportunities for the exceptions, but our primary responsibility is to provide for the majority, who have more typical preferences.

              As long as gender differences in preferences persist, we should expect to see marked differences in outcomes and a society with gender asymmetries. As I have argued, certain forms of practice lead to power and influence in ways that others don’t. In wanting to maintain more typically female preferred forms of practice, priorities, and interaction, while receiving the same rewards that men receive for their preferred forms, it seems to me that feminists really want to have their cake and eat it. The sort of society that this leads to is one with ever increasing government involvement and regulation.

              While there is a distinction between sex and gender there is not a complete disconnect. One doesn’t have to look far to see some fairly fixed differences that will lead to very different group tendencies between men and women. Although I could mention testosterone and other such things, I don’t even need to: there are even more basic distinctions than that.

              Even in the most basic forms of our bodies, we are oriented differently. The male body, for instance, has just one sexed organ, and only one primary sex act of relatively brief duration. It directs the body outwards and focuses male sexual identity on external performance. By contrast, women’s sexed bodies achieve their telos far more within and in direct and long term relationship with themselves (menstrual cycle, pregnancy, nursing, etc.). Women’s bodies naturally orient them to a deep communion and connection of bodies that no man could experience in the same way. Whether women seek to pursue this or not is another matter, but the bodily orientation remains.

              Female identity is fairly grounded in the body, its appearance, its cycles, and its potentials. This fact alone means that a woman’s understanding of her femininity is often very much about her relationship with her body, a relationship that is mediated by the wider society. As it is the body that is more central, female identity will always have a tendency to be a lot more fraught with the danger of objectification. Female identity will also be a lot more immediate and insistent.

              The male body is primarily functional and not the same bearer of meaning that the female body is. Men seldom have anything like the same fraught relationship with their bodies. Thus, male identity is sought and found primarily in culturally supported forms of performance. Masculinity is something that you must prove to a far greater degree than femininity (this is where the fraught character of male identity emerges). A woman’s body can assure her that she is a real woman, while the sources of male identity impel the man to move beyond himself.

              As the telosof the male body is fulfilled in external interaction, men will be particularly driven to external interaction more generally in their identities. Women can also enjoy such interactions, of course, but there is seldom as much riding on it. Men’s sexed identity is more closely bound up with ‘demonstrating’ their masculinity through effective action and having that demonstration recognized and approved by others, pursuing honour and status. As the telos of the female sexed body is realized within itself and is symbolically tied to other bodies and a personal communion, the source of identity is much closer to home and tends to involve internal connections to those around her, connections that must be preserved for the sake of her identity.

              These different identities will tend – tend, I stress – to thrive in different sorts of groups. Men will have a particular need for recognition and empowering of agency, the desire for respect and honour. Such groups will tend to be more competitive, agonistic, assertive, externally oriented, and non-intimate. Women will have a particular need for affirmation and reassurance of belonging, a desire for love. Such groups will tend to be more cooperative, egalitarian, inclusive, affirming, internally oriented, and intimate. Of course, these are just general tendencies: there is considerable overlap in preferences here. However, the main point remains: even before mentioning differences in hormones, physical involvement in the actual acts of reproduction, differences in size and strength, etc., our sexed bodies aren’t neutral entities, but push us in different directions, different directions that can have significant long term consequences.

            • Alastair,
              I understand that male and female bodies are not identical and I am very interested in reconsidering what kind of credible conclusions we can draw from that. But ascribing anything other than a “neutral” position to sexed bodies is entirely a social construction. We could just as easily say that women are externally oriented because they excrete blood and expel babies and men are internally oriented because they seek to put their penis in things. Or we could say that because women are relationship-oriented they are better suited to govern countries, where working with diverse people is central, and because men are functionally-oriented they are better suited to cooking and cleaning, where they can feel pride over a completed task. Sexed bodies have no meaning or value unless we assign it to them. To claim otherwise is to return to the biological essentializing and determinism that was used for centuries to oppress people.

              What is most troubling to me about your post is your assertion that “most people are fairly comfortable with the majority of gender norms as they apply to them.” First, this is precisely the sort of argument that has been made to exclude people from gaining power and influence. “We don’t have to allow women/blacks/jews into our university because they don’t want to go to university.” The problem with group tendencies is that *everyone* is an exception to some extent, which makes group differences a somewhat useless rubric when dealing with an actual person. Interpersonal dynamics, identity formation, and social norms are not data-driven endeavors like insurance. They are intrinsically subjective and culturally conditioned.
              Second, there already *is* ample evidence contradicting gender norms so that to act on “group probabilities” is *not* prudent and can, in some cases, get you into a lot of legal and financial trouble. For example, believing that “few fathers are or will ever be as emotionally and personally invested in their children as their wives are” and thereby acting to deny a male employee parental leave could cost you an employee and runs afoul of the FMLA. Likewise, to believe motherhood is a priori a state of dependency (whether dependent on government, business or a spouse) is to deny the individual autonomy and agency of mothers. The problem is the huge leaps that you make from “bodies are different” to “differences mean something” to “certain meanings lead to power and influence.” If Feminism has accomplished anything in the last fifty years it’s that these do not automatically flow from one to the other. Biology is not destiny.

            • Yep. What Sarah said.

              Also –
              I wholeheartedly agree that class differences continue to be a huge problem and American myths of individuality are often detrimental.
              And I agree that feminism is not an endpoint, but is one of several movements pursuing the common goal of justice and equality.

            • Marc Iverson says:

              You do not at all need to repeat yourself when some of your ideas are disagreed with any more than you need to strike down putative straw men. If anything, that would be, as it heretofore was, counterproductive, assuming reasonable intelligence on the part of your audience, which should be the default position until rendered insupportable by more than disagreement over specifics.

              “Employee satisfaction” as a metric of business success and productivity, and particularly skewed toward validating the satisfaction of the employee skipping out of work hours (for reasons cheerable or execrable), is a fuzzy metric indeed. It is meaningless without taking into account both the feelings of other employees, and the needs of business, called in to take up the slack. As presented so far, it is a poor business concept and, as a social concept, a peculiarly selfish one. Why is one person’s baby (toddler, ballet recital, 3rd grade “graduation” etc.) valid reason to prevent another parent from rushing home to their own baby? Or the increasingly single person’s deciding to pursue their own life interests?

            • I believe I do need to repeat and clarify my position if responses to my comments take issue with a position I didn’t espouse and don’t hold.

              Generally speaking, I think it’s better for any relationship to be reciprocal and not so one sided. So if one employee is taking advantage of everyone else, that’s not okay. However, looking at things through a win-lose lens tends to stunt creativity and fuel resentment. There are win-win-win scenarios.

          • Because the majority of humans will reproduce and having employment which caters to that is essential to a better society? If some employers had their way they’d pay well below minimum wage, so no the employers choice doesn’t matter as much as the citizens. The well-being of the employee matters and at the moment there are barriers to many parents to employment where their children suffer because of issues to do with childcare, we could have more people working if there were more family-friendly policies in place. Do you think it is right that so many parents are forced to paying high prices for childcare due to cost of living concerns where the ability to pickup their kids after work could reduce that cost? Your workers who will be more stressed over money, very stressed if their kid gets sick and thus productivity will really suffer not to mention hatred for the boss?

            Sure it’s easy to just say tough bikkies, and let childless people get the jobs but you’re gonna have a reduced talentpool to pick from. How many of these employees quit because childcare alone costs heavily? Would they stay around if the company had childcare onsight and was able to do it cheaper so the parent could keep working?

            • Marc Iverson says:

              Cutting off at the first sentence, is it really the fulcrum of a better society that everyone reproduce?

              If so, is there any point at which this process ends?

              By any metric I can reckon, the planet cannot sustain a “better outcome” of most people reproducing. In fact it would be disaster, accelerating mass starvation and war.

              Is this an acceptable outcome?

              In such a scenario, who is likely to live — first world or third world children and adults? What is the price of a first world opportunity versus a third world life?

              It would be easier to think these were third-world theoreticals affecting only distant peoples who by nature of their distance are perhaps impliedly unimportant … but how many should suffer stunted mental growth from malnutrition and die for the first world’s supposedly inherent right to keep on having more and more children and consume more and more resources at the cost of the increasing poverty and starvation around the world?

            • If 2 parents have 1-2 children, then the population will go backwards (since not everyone has kids). If it gets bad enough then gov’s will have to bring in population control methods to limit population growth.

            • Marc,

              While we may not be reproducing at a great rate, our current alternative is one in which governments seek to mobilize the majority of the populace for the service and expansion of the economy. If we were cutting back on the reproduction rate and living simpler lives, consuming (and hence producing) less, downscaling, and devoting more time, effort, and resources to the care of the environment, that would be very positive. However, the main reason the reproduction rate has fallen is not because we want to consume less, but because we want to consume more as individuals and having children would put too much of a toll upon our expected standard of living.

            • Marc Iverson says:

              There is an implicit assumption here, a sort of “we” being posited, as if the first world were static rather than volatile. In Germany, there is a huge influx of Turks; in Spain, Moroccans and others; in Greece, there is the fascistic Golden Dawn arising at least in good part out of the influx of immigrants; in France, there is Le Pen, there are racial problems in Britain, and in America, the Latino population will outnumber the whites in some states fairly soon — I’ve seen various figures from 2030 to 2050 quoted.

              Perhaps I am taking too much of the long view historically? But I don’t regard the first world as monolithic when it comes to birth rates. Where traditional populations have declining birthrates, many immigrant populations have very high birthrates, and immigration has transformed the face of American and West European populations.

              So it strikes me that saying or implying birth rates are dropping significantly is correct insofar as it goes, but it doesn’t go all that far lately and is due to go much less far in the future. What that all points to is that resources are still limited and scarcity is, as always, a factor in how we choose to live in the world and how and how much we choose to consume. The automatic assumption that having children, or having more children, should always be regarded as either a society’s or a discrete individual’s highest goal seems to me very outdated. It will always be biologically current — but is it really morally, and should it be politically? Is it really a goal that is best left unexamined or a problem best treated as inherently never in any sense or under any circumstances problematic?

  10. wellokaythen says:

    We’re clearly not a predominantly agriculture society anymore. On a family farm, there really is no distinction between the household repairs and the labor shift. It’s basically all one collection of chores to do, whether it directly results in money or not. This whole artificial distinction we make between “work” and “housework” is a total industrial and post-industrial thing we’ve just arbitrarily made up to pretend that there are two totally different spaces, public and private.

  11. Shared parenting is a whole other issue. And, indeed men’s contributions are also undersold. But that’s a whole other article…

  12. Everyone- Thank you for this great discussion! You all raise interesting ideas and have given me a lot to consider.

    In this and many other gender divide issues- the key is for the couple to work out an agreement that works well for them, regardless of societal gender roles. In fact, there’s a lot of research that shows that egalitarian relationships in which there is shifting and fluid responsibilities between spouses often leads to less dis-satisfaction around these issues.

    In fact, statistics on divorce show that couples in which there is a strict gender divide along traditional lines face the highest rates of divorce, while couples with a roughly 60/40 split between work outide the home/work inside the home have the lowest rates.

    • “Shifting and fluid responsibilities between spouses”. That pretty much describes me and the Wife. With my job in heavy construction providing NO way of scheduling anything, we’ve pretty much adopted a policy of ‘Whoever’s available’ to get things done that we’re both capable of doing(cook dinner, cleaning etc.). Now that we’re both getting on in years and find our bodies can be occassionally uncoporative, it’s more important than ever to be able to ‘Pick up the slack’ for each other.

  13. Hugh Schwartz says:

    I dont approve of this article.

  14. It’s difficult to understand the confusion over this.To raise a family in modern culture demands that gender apropriate roles be cast aside simply in order to function.Sudden shifts in the socio-political-climate beyond our control happen all the time.The recent financial collaspe and war,as examples, are not anamolies but rather are common features of American life.These things cause great upsets and gender conventions hamper one’s abilities to adjust on the fly.The workload will NEVER be equal,ever.

  15. Shoveling snow is enjoyable and thus should not count as a chore? Mowing the lawn in August is enjoyable? Fixing a clogged toilet is enjoyable? Grouting? Painting a room? Hauling air conditioners up the stairs? Doing the taxes? Changing the car’s oil? Crawling through the musty crawl space to repair a leaky pipe?

    And cooking is not enjoyable? The hell?

    • Marc Iverson says:

      Just because it’s enjoyable doesn’t mean it’s not work. And there’s nothing wrong with enjoying work. That doesn’t diminish it, or its contribution, in any way. I often enjoy cooking, but the hour of prep time peeling and chopping vegetables and making ingredients can be a chore. Today I’ll be making shiskabob for about three hours, and I expect my back will be very stiff and painful afterwards, as usual. Just because I and my family will think it was worth it doesn’t mean it was any less work or that my back won’t be hurting.

    • According to the PSID survey, cooking counts as a chore.

      Yardwork was not considered a chore in part, because it is assumed to be enjoyable.

      I used this as a rhetorical jumping off point to highlight other “men’s” chores that are important, take time, but are not counted inthe highly influential PSID survey.

  16. Scott…Could you be so kind as to define for the rest of us what TRUE,lasting, gender equality actually is and how it is accurately measured for everyone.

  17. It’s sad that it’s come down to this His chores, her chores kind of thing. Pre-kids, when my wife and I both worked, we shared household chores. Not by assignment but simply our of willingness. Fortunately we were able to own our own home so I was afforded the responsibility of maintaining the home … something I learned how to do from my father (countless hours of observing).

    When my wife was a stay at home housewife, she picked up more of the household duties simply because she had more time and more importantly because she wanted to. When we had kids, she again took up that end of the household. This was a time where society was in the thick of feminism and she was continuously subject to “you’re being oppressed” and you’re value is being diminished because you don’t have the so called “career.” But her chosen career was being a mom and a wife. She relished the fact that she had a house and all the responsibilities that went with it. (that which she never had growing up.)

    What the heck is happening that relationships are being judged by the chores each party does or doesn’t do? I think it goes with the “me” generation where some people expect others to make “me” happy and that I’m entitled to happiness at another persons expense. I think people are being selfish about this chores thing. You get married and do what you need to do. If you have issues about someone not pulling their own weight, then you need to talk about it and work it out. There is no set rule, each family is different and I get tired of the blame game. It’s as though someone has to stir things up and come up with issues where there are no issues.

    Yeah, I would have issues if my wife had issues with my not cleaning or doing laundry. Note that I said I would have issues if she had issues. But we didn’t, we did what we needed to do.

    Maybe it’s about unrealistic expectations? My son-in-law is about as handy with house maintenance as a bull in a china shop but when it comes down to helping my daughter with household tasks, he’s great. He wasn’t raised in an environment where he was taught to do home maintenance. But he’s learning … it takes time. I guess he’s getting tired of my daughter calling daddy to do some work on the house and wants to learn. Is it a deal breaker for them? Hell no. They work things out.

Trackbacks

  1. […] This is a comment by Danny on the post “These Chores Don’t Count? On Men’s Hidden ‘Second Shift’”. […]

  2. […] to point out that this is pretty limited to the middle class. The Good Men Project recently posted an article about the ways in which typically men’s chores are not counted in tally ups because […]

  3. […] This article was republished at the Good Men Project online men’s magazine, generating over 90 comments.  Follow this link to the article. […]

  4. […] the folk at The Good Men Project say that men’s housework isn’t counted in the regularly-quoted housework tallies. That said, I’ve seen studies which count ‘commuting’ into weekly-work tallies. […]

  5. […] Read more awesome Lists on The Good Life. Here’s one: a list of domestic chores that aren’t included in studies on housework and gender—These Chores Don’t Count? […]

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